As the Blade Runner sequel hits cinemas this month, The Dubai Police have announced they are going to be adding flying hoverbike drones to its fleet of police transport. The police force have outlined plans to add a bunch of the Russian designed Hover Surf Scorpion 3 to the team for both manned and unmanned missions. The force made the announcement at GITEX, the largest technology expo in the Gulf region.
The futuristic devices can fly with a pilot at up to 70kmh and in their unmanned mode can reach top speeds of 100kmh. Unfortunately, the hoverbikes only have a range of about 20-25 minutes and the batteries take about three hours to fully charge. Luckily the batteries are replaceable to keep the bike in the air, but you wouldn't want to fly too far away from the base.
Online news media is dismissing the announcement as a media stunt but if there is anywhere in the world that could get away with such a ludicrous sounding idea it would be Dubai. The country has already made other drone-related breakthroughs including delivering coffee to beachgoers via drone. This summer, coffee shop chain Costa Coffee introduced its 'drone drop' concept to customers at Jumeirah Beach Road. After taking customers' order, the company delivered the drinks to its thirsty owners in less than fifteen minutes. While there aren't any plans for this to be a permanent fixture, the stunt certainly provided an insight into what the future could hold.
If the announcement is true we can’t expect the police to be saddling up the Scorpions anytime soon. The tiny aircraft still have a long way to go in testing and it's likely there would have to be some changes to the legislation before the drones get a real green light. However, the idea of rideable drones has definitely got us excited. Is there really a possibility of compact rideable drones to get us to work? While the technology certainly exists, making the drones really safe enough for human passengers hasn’t quite been achieved.
Check this video from the team behind the Scorpion. It shows a pilot dressed in dirt bike safety gear flying the quadcopter around a warehouse. While the vehicle looks relatively safe, he does fly scarily close to the ceiling rafters and the propellers seem to be begging to cut a leg off an unsuspecting observer.
The company making the craft state on their website that, “For the moment, SCORPION platform is increasingly seen as an extreme sports instrument, yet the vessel’s transportation potential remains evident.” What the potential of them will be isn’t exactly clear. With such massive propellers and short flight times, it's unlikely they’ll be flying over crowds anytime soon. But we will be watching with interest if the Dubai force can help push this ambitious startup over the edge from insane sport to useful commercial product.